Latinos and Immigration Reform – Part 1 of 4 Parts

The Need for A Critical Analysis For Immigration Reform

By Arnoldo S. Torres with National Institute of Latino Policy

This is an analysis of the immigration debate and the responsibility Latinos must examine on the strategy and tactics applied and the corresponding consequences of these actions.

Now that DACA and the President’s immigration enforcement package have been placed on hold by Congress and the courts, all parties have some time to try and work out a short-term or long-term compromise. Latino and DACA “leaders” must step back and consider the strategy they have been following, its pros and what I believe are many cons. It is an arduous task they have taken on, and I respect and admire the determination, emotion, and commitment they have demonstrated to date.

However, the strategy they have been following has had little success on the bottom line, while having severe consequences. It’s great to be mentioned by Hollywood actors at the 90th Oscar Awards, but that does not provide the relief and fairness being sought and earned by hardworking people whose motivations are no different than those who migrated to the U.S. at the turn of the 19th century.

Over the last 17 years, Latinos have seen how fear and anger has manifested itself towards our U.S.-born and immigrant communities. Despite all who suffered (including many immigrants from many parts of the world) from the horrific and permanent scars caused by the attacks on September 11, 2001, we began to experience the unprecedented damage to our national psyche and identification.  The door of anti-immigrant sentiment had been nudged open.

With the beginning of the presidential campaign in 2015, the door came off the hinges. We have been experiencing a level of intolerance, scapegoating, ignorance, nationalist xenophobia and racism most had not seen or felt before. Those of us who remember that these attitudes and behavior have long been a part of our history in this nation also remember the ugly experiences of our parents and grandparents. I cannot help but believe that fixing that damn door may not be possible after what we have been through the last seven years.

Arnoldo Torres

Latinos need to accept the reality that we have a fair share of responsibility for what has happened to us in this immigration dynamic. The perspective and analysis I offer do not come at an easy time nor will it be well received by many. However, I ask that you look beyond the political correctness lens that will surely be applied.

Some will say how dare I question what Latino advocates on immigration have been doing. I would respond how dare there is no dialogue or transparency of what has been going on for years with no tangible results!  It is essential and imperative that all so-called “movements del pueblo, of conscious” have a critical analysis of their strategy, tactics, plans, and results.

It was Latino “Dreamers” who accepted the political argument and strategy that said, “These kids are not to blame for the actions of their parents who brought them to the U.S. illegally.” This political argument should never have been made, and the political strategy never followed. But liberal left and “progressive” foundations began to fund immigrant rights groups during the Obama years, and this was the argument and strategy followed to a tee. Democratic leaders went right along.

“Dreamers” were portrayed as being “Americans” who have and would contribute significantly to the nation because they were educated, had or were willing to serve in the military and their faces and pictures made for excellent optics. It was clear that the strategist behind this approach believed that these pictures and young faces would be hard to condemn.  Another clear element in this self-defeating strategy was the confident feeling that Hilary would take care of all remaining undocumented family members.

This line of argument and thinking was dishonorable and unfair to the parent generation in the U.S. Parents who entered the US without papers did not do so to hurt their children. Their parents were seeking what parents all over the world want, economic survival and opportunity for their family. The parent generation of the “Dreamers,” like their parents before them, were recruited and encouraged to come to the U.S. by specific industries. Over time these industries became dependent on and preferred these immigrant workers over U.S.-born workers. In other words, Mexicans were not the cause of any displacement, the economic market and U.S.-born workers work ethic changed. This process formally and informally began during the first World War because of labor shortages.

These generations of undocumented immigrants have made exceptional contributions to this nation up until this very time in our history.  They have labored hard in whatever jobs they secured, they have paid taxes, made sure their children did well in school so one day they would meet the criteria for the DACA program, they purchased homes, started small and medium businesses, took jobs that paid little and offered little protection or benefits but were indispensable to our economy, and seldom complained!

Shame on the Republicans who have portrayed these generations of hard-working people as welfare dependents, criminals, drug smugglers, or “not the best.” Shame on Democrats for speaking out of both sides of their mouths while playing politics with the desperation of vulnerable people, and hubris and inexperience of youth that found a voice. Shame on the liberal foundations and the Frank Sharrys (America’s Voice) in this network who were fighting other battles besides the one that was facing good people.

This unprecedented investment in the immigrant community has undoubtedly raised the profile of DACA recipients, helped fund the building of capacity and infrastructure of immigrant community advocacy groups. They indeed developed and gave voice to the individuals who became DACA leaders. However, these liberal/progressive institutions and their public faces contributed significantly to the strategy, talking points, and tactics that put exclusive focus and political capital on DACA recipients. DACA has pushed aside all the other immigration policy, domestic and international issues confronting the large Latino family that exists in the U.S.

I do not doubt that there is good faith and that there are many individuals on the left that are well motivated and committed. However, there should be no doubt that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” This side of the political spectrum has a clear pattern of telling us what is in minorities’ best interest and how to get there. They may not see it as clearly as many of us have over decades, but do not doubt its existence, prevalence, and negative consequences.

The challenge Latinos and Dreamers must overcome is the inclination to place critical issues before us in only a political context. We seriously ignore the role policy has in deciding the future and moving the needle. I am not naïve enough to maintain that perfection should be the enemy of good, but I certainly hope I will not hear perfection should not be our motivation. Politics is not the engine that drives all things and cannot replace sound policy proposals that are opposed because they do not satisfy our bias or ignorance.  Bad public policy makes for bad politics and presents intended and unintended consequences for the future. It is a dangerous habit to break, as evidenced by what Congress has been doing for far too long.

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Washington Post Writer Sees Ag Issues with RAISE Act

Disconnect Exists with Urban Politicians, Ruben Navarrette says

By Joanne Lui, Associate Editor

Ruben Navarrette grew up in the Central Valley and is a syndicated columnist for the Washington Post Writers Group. California Ag Today caught up with him recently at an event in Fresno called the The Latino Paradox: Immigration Forum. He spoke about the RAISE Act S.354, which severely limits immigration into the U.S. because it would be based on education and skills.

Ruben Navarrette

“There’s this disconnect in Washington and New York … mostly urban areas where politicians don’t think much about agriculture, agribusiness,” Navarrette said. “They have no clue about where this fruit is coming from when they walk down the street in New York and they see an orange. They don’t understand how dangerous something like the RAISE Act would be if you ultimately limit the amount of people who come here based on education and skills.”

The RAISE Act will limit immigration from Latin American countries. Meanwhile, U.S.-born citizens don’t go out to work in the fields.

“I think there’s a lot of people who wrongly believe that American workers will do those jobs if the wages are high enough, and the way they tell the story [is] to make the agribusiness and the farmers into the bad guy,” Navarrette said. “If you know enough farmers and you go out into enough fields and you interview enough farmers and enough workers, you know that’s completely false. Farmers could be in business for 30 years and never in 30 years have they ever had an American come to them and say, ‘Can I pick peaches?’ ”

With the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act (DACA), if dreamers are sent back, there are questions about what may happen with their parents.

“If they go back, the parents may ultimately self-deport as well and that’s going to be disruptive,” Navarrette said. “Clearly it’s a mistake for us to believe that sort of agriculture and DACA, they’re all separate from each other. The issues are all intertwined. When a farm worker is working in a field, he cares about whether the local police have the authority to detain him, if he’s pulled over. He cares because he has kids who are in the DACA Program, so farming isn’t necessarily segregated. The farm workers are piped into all these different issues.”

 

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Supreme Court Ruling on Immigration

Manuel Cunha Jr. Fires Off Letter RE:  Supreme Court Ruling on Immigration 

The following is a letter that Manuel Cunha, president of the Nisei Farmers League sent out about the Supreme Court ruling on immigration TODAY:

“As the president of the Nisei Farmers League, board member of the National Immigration Forum in Washington, D.C., chair of the Insure America Project, and as a farmer myself, I am deeply disappointed in the Supreme Court ruling that was announced TODAY. Their ruling provided no guidance nor direction to this Congress and ignored the safety of those affected by the ruling.

The 4-4 deadlock leaves in place an appeals court ruling blocking President Obama’s immigration plan. His plan would have allowed parents of citizens or of lawful permanent residents to apply for a program that would spare them from deportation and provide them with work permits.

Dignity, integrity and justice is what this country believes in and has made this country great. This country was built and strengthened by immigrants. Many of us today realize it was our parents and ancestors from other countries that brought us here. However, there are those that have forgotten, many of which are currently members of Congress.

This decision does not move us closer to immigration reform, but allows Congress to repeatedly refuse to support bipartisan legislation to update immigration laws. Congress continues to not deal with Immigration, but rather deal with their own party politics.

Millions of families will remain in limbo, and our system remains broken. The attention now turns to Senate and House Republicans to provide leadership on this issue. What is their solution to our broken immigration system? This escalates many of the problems that currently exist. Drug and human trafficking will continue, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids will not go away. Millions of immigrants living in the shadows is not the answer. Deportation of the people that clothe and feed us is shameful and not the answer.DACA Dreamers logo_2016

We must remember that the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,” DACA (Dreamers), is untouched. We need to focus on providing alternatives to the children who were brought here and have grown up here as Americans and identify themselves as Americans. The DACA program is still in play and we need to encourage those that are eligible to apply.”

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